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PLYMOUTH - NatureWorks and CJ BIO have signed a letter of intent with the aim of developing high-performance biopolymers that will replace fossil fuel-based plastics in applications ranging from compostable food packaging and food serviceware, to personal care.

With a strategic alignment in place between the two organizations, polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) producer CJ BIO, a division of South Korea-based CJ CheilJedang, and PLA specialist Natureworks, have also confirmed that they are working toward a Master Collaboration Agreement (MCA).

The companies will work together to develop sustainable materials solutions based on CJ BIO’s PHACT Marine Biodegradable Polymers and NatureWorks’ Ingeo biomaterials technology.

NatureWorks is a pioneer in the development of bio-based materials that reduce carbon impact and enable new end-of-use options with its Ingeo technology. As a company, it has developed many of the leading high-volume applications for PLA. In recent years, PLA has experienced significant growth as a bio-based material in a broad range of finished products. Due to its unique functionality, it has been used to replace petrochemical-based plastics, with 100% bio-based content, and enable end-of-use recovery options, including compostability and chemical or coated paper recycling.

Both companies realize the potential to further enhance performance and end-of-use solutions for biopolymers, and increase the level of adoption across many new applications. By combining their expertise and technology platforms, NatureWorks and CJ aim to deliver next generation solutions together.

Initial development and collaboration are showing very promising results when using CJ BIO’s unique amorphous PHA in combination with Ingeo biopolymer.

Fermentation

CJ BIO is one of the world's leading supplier of fermentation-based bioproducts for animal nutrition, human nutrition, and biomaterials at its thirteen manufacturing facilities worldwide.

The company recently announced commercial-scale production of PHA following the inauguration of a new production facility in Pasuruan, Indonesia. CJ BIO is today the only company in the world producing amorphous PHA (aPHA), including the first product under its new PHACT brand, named PHACT A1000P. Amorphous PHA is a softer, more rubbery version of PHA that offers fundamentally different performance characteristics than crystalline or semi-crystalline forms of PHA. It is certified biodegradable under industrial compost, soil (ambient), and marine environments.

Modifying PLA with amorphous PHA leads to improvements in mechanical properties, such as toughness, and ductility, while maintaining clarity. It also allows adjustment in the biodegradability of PLA and can potentially lead to a home compostable product.

“Plastics are an essential material that improves people’s lives, but their fossil sourcing and after-use impact present a major climate challenge that must be addressed,” says Seung Jin Lee, Head of the Biomaterials Business at CJ BIO. “NatureWorks and its Ingeo technology have already helped by bringing to market new material functionality and after-use options. They have extensive product and applications development capability, supporting, for example flexible and rigid packaging that we believe can benefit from our PHACT amorphous PHA technology.

I am excited for the opportunity to create new solutions in tandem with NatureWorks that will have a real impact on the challenge plastics pose today, and that will help improve the environment for future generations.”

According to NatureWorks’ CEO Rich Altice: “The demand for sustainable products continues to grow around the world. For more than 30 years, NatureWorks has participated in the circular economy, developing advanced biomaterials that contribute to a more sustainable future. As we look toward the future, we want to amplify the impact of our Ingeo technology with promising, new bio-based solutions, and we feel that with its PHACT aPHA technology, CJ BIO is an ideal partner to achieve our goal.”

NatureWorks and CJ BIO will collect feedback from existing and potential customers across a range of applications and markets including packaging, food serviceware, and organics recycling management to understand the growing need for functional product requirements that also align with sustainability goals.

These collaborations will inform the companies’ product and technology development roadmap. The two companies say that the LOI is the start of what is expected to be a long-term relationship between NatureWorks and CJ BIO and are aiming to sign a master collaboration agreement in the near future.

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